Monday, August 30, 2010

a reply

Dear Mom,
Thanks for the Sandburg collection--I didn't know about him, but his work is very apropos my own easing into Chicago as a city that is now home, with a history that is beyond my own, but which still seems familiar and recognizable. Poetry is a wonderful genre in this regard; it's capacity for hyper-distillation of meaning, and through this compression affect the production of a new resonance, encourages one to "read between the lines"--a feat only possible if you are 'in' on the multiplicity of referents and the significance of the contingent and particular relationship strung together in the metaphorical sign-chain of the rhythmatics moving the verse.
J. and I saw one of his professor's debut a dance/performance piece, and part of the debut included mounted artworks, a musical open-mic-type deal, and a poetry reading. The punch in the fridge was a 'creeper' and gave you a hang-over before you even knew you were drunk--beautifully blended quality whiskey and pineapple juice w/ a sprinkle of cinnamon and 2 lrg ice-cubes.
The only male member of the troupe--Jesse's prof was just able to double her 'company' thanks to a grant from the State, a still paltry sum, an embarrassingly obvious attempt at a buy-out, precisely by making you buy in: because she must still work, she is still neutered, but so cleverly that it looks like she is being assisted... Anyway, the only male member of the troupe is this beautiful gay man, my age, and in absolutely suburb physical condition. His body moves in ways that are simply captivating to watch. "To watch" is too verbial, too active: rather, I was taken over by the masterful fluidity of his form--the question of, or concern over, content makes no sense when speaking of movement, precisely because the principle of movement is nothing more than the perpetuation of movement: movement is the means in and of itself (for movement never asks the question of "ends," which is antithetical to its own internal logic of perpetuation).
Hannah Arendt makes a rather strange prioritization of the "freedom of movement" when critiquing the racist logics of nation-state formation (the nation: the 'blood,' the 'race,' language, sexuality, and origin myths of "natural" national identity; the State: the legal guarantees of belonging enshrined in founding documents and their amendments, as well as the performance of their authority through enforcement of and adherence to them). She argues that the vacuity of the "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man" is anticipated by the explosion of the moral, political, and legal protections opened by post-WWI "displaced persons" or "internally displaced persons" (the up-dated version of this applied by the State Department when speaking of the 1million+ Iraqis whose lives have been rather radically and violently up-rooted by American imperial exploits). Namely, expelled Jews from the east, who were "illegal" because they were not covered by any formal law, were infinitely vulnerable to all sorts of political abuses because they were not formal citizens of their new nation-state 'home,' nor were they of the 'nationality' of their new neighbors.
From my interested perspective, I'm concerned with the way we speak of ourselves as subjects in the lexicons of movement--'entering into' a contract, 'leaving' a job, 'moving-on' from or 'getting-over' a bad relationship, ect., ect. When thinking of what 'queer' ultimately means, the emphasis is on a certain commitment to the principle of movement aforementioned. This is, of course, slightly problematic (some might object) in that if one never 'stops to think' about what we're doing, we may run into all sorts of problems, including genocides, Orwellian super-bureaucratized States, or banally phantastic capitalist-Christianity. But it isn't queer that all of these logics of domination are only substantial through the freezing or deadening of (now) stereo-typified Others, floating signifiers of difference and non-belonging who are 'filled-in' (like a coloring-book cartoon) with the fear, vitriol, and rage of a bleached, generic and ever-reproductive position of 'unmarked' abstract or universal 'In-ness'.
It is not at all difficult to adjudicate questions of consequence--indeed, it never really was: Scottish 'Enlightenment' philosopher David Hume presumed to disprove theories of causality, but he only further clouded the issue, which as Nietzsche reminds, is always one of morality: the simple fact is that one is able to, without much difficulty, entertain and then decide upon one of multiple accounts of the 'unfolding of events' without having a) an existential crisis or b) collapsing into an essentialized diagnosis of 'origins'; neither is judgment an immediate indication of prejudice, just as it needn't be a hyperbolic or ahistorical claim to privileged knowledge. Rather, the dis-ease evoked upon confrontation with a strong judgment is symptomatic of a precariously maintained distance from disruptive forces, powers, drives, or desires for change or difference. It is, as Nietzsche argues, turned inwards, into the guts of the dis-eased, rigid animal, the human-all-too-human example of a desire to evade responsibility taken to its most self-destructive extreme.
This is a banal truth now: the zero-sum-game of (Christian) moral purity is evident in Cold War MADD foreign policy; less obvious: how this obscene commitment to an end-all, be-all cause (the fictional Enlightenment autonomous, sovereign, rational subject) authorizes "proxy" wars waged on the terrain of trivial, meaningless locales--meaningful only by virtue of repetition of service as a staging ground: Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cuba, Argentina, and Israel; just as the Oedipal comedy repeats the same exhausted tropes on the petty trivialities of the ordinary. It is queer to think of an alternative game, where the loser wins, that might resist a logic of inevitable repetition; but it is naive to demean the ordinary violences of the everyday suturing of fractured and plural publics into a coherent whole simply because the normalcy of such spectacles would seem to warrant ceding the plane of contestation to this hegemonically ascendent configuration of conservative ideology. What is conserved is that which is never really in existence: it is a fantasy of a future that will mimic a past that never was; policing adherence to this fantasy is the stakes of the politics of the 'culture wars' that have set the terms of debate since the supposed 'silent majority' was spoken for by the Evangelical Right. Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush jr. and Obama as a continuous stream of apologists for and enablers of White American exceptionalism, unregulated private capital, and reactive, compulsorily heteronormative morality.
The logics of the future (which are claimed to be, by both sides of the ideological debate, the logics of the 'now') will, we may say, emerge out of the logics of the present tense, the now, the I in the active and passive voice; and it is only a willingness to continually begin again, to augment the trajectories continuously inaugurated, that opens the possibility of a future: out of this commitment to futurity seeps the life-blood of pleasure. This is not about a figuration of life predicated on a continuation or reproduction of a tradition; rather, queer specifically aims at the rupture of traditional genealogies, seeing in such reconstructed histories the violence of exclusion (not only of what is forgotten or censored from the narrative, but in what and who is valued in the narratives: this is the logic of nostalgic ideology: what is desired from a non-existent past is cast as the horizon of a utopian future). In this way, the future is already foreclosed as being a priori determined by an attachment to a phantasmic object of pleasure, the fetishization of any old object or condition or relation promised as a total panacea. Inaccessible to the present tense, the promise of happiness is projected onto the future; failure to properly pursue this promise of happiness is read as discontentment, disorder, dangerousness: a cause for concern. In turn, the failed aggression of the middle class white bourgeoise, and the disappointing products of suburbia, is "transcoded" into an ideology of defensive victimization under assault from the manic efforts of deviants, criminals, and political activists.
The spectacle of bourgeois opulence, the excess of resources which lay idle, the superfluousness of gluttonous corporeal mass itself--the comfortable padding indicative of the particular privilege mediocrity bestows--all this and more attests to the bog-like cultural climate of the planned settlements, out-posts of White Flight from the too 'urban' metropolis, that comprise the matrix of snobbish pretension on the one hand, and utter ignorance and aggravated disinterestedness of the bourgeoise on the other. Anything that pulses with life, a city, a subway, a gregarious or exasperated address, a cry of (failed) defiance--all of this will be coded as cause for concern. And again, the impulse (which is _privative_), is to normalization, which itself is a projection outward, of others, and oneself, onto a plotted flow-chart; a banalization of care transformed--more nearly, _de_-formed--into a silencing through parentalized intervention: the nanny state, the patriarchal former-colonizer, the analyst in the throws of counter-transference. Psychic disturbances are thrown-out, Freud writes, and treated as though arising from the 'outside', external to the subject. This is a mode of defense for what we cannot bear in ourselves. Our own pathology, our own sinthome (the peculiar knot bundling the subject), made Other, radically, a Sophie's Choice calculus performed daily, hourly: deaden this, kill that, ignore, ignore, ignore! And what cannot be ignored or killed, we sedate, poison, speak-for--anything to silence.
Like the thought of a cock in my asshole, which may explain the absence of any reference to my boyfriend in your 'concerned' email. Or, perhaps, that was what bothersome, what was nearly intolerable, was not having to change plans, but your profound inability to even entertain the possibility of alteration. Our (mine, J's--ours) vacation was wonderful, actually. We pitched scenes (as Barthes calls them), but ultimately, it was the ordinary kinks arising from encountering newness (my friends, mentors, former-lovers), and not knowing exactly how to negotiate the particularity of my history with each of them, or, more to the point, how those histories bear upon my relationship to him. I love him all the more for his willingness to suffer expanding his understanding of me.
The city pulsed with life, and my friends were generous, loving, and just like I wanted to remember them--which is to say, they have changed into the people we wanted to become. You missed all of that, but then: you didn't want to experience any of it. So, keep your concern, in your entombed enclave up and away: I already was taking care not to need it.

"Hey XXX,
I just wanted to drop a note to let you know we are thinking of you. Hope your trip back home went smoothly. It seemed your trip, though I am sure fun to see all your friends and hang out in Brooklyn and Manhattan, was stressful in that your plans kept changing. It didn’t seem like a relaxing vacation. By the time we saw you, you seemed very agitated and I have been concerned about you. I am hoping that since you have been home, back in your own territory and routines, things have settled down for you. I know you are very busy with work both at the store, and more importantly, with the prep for your comps, and I would wish for you to be at your best. Be well… and I’ll continue to keep you in my yoga intentions.
Love ya!

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